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Home detention for defrauding disability trust

27 March 2018

Auckland man Saul Roberts receives home detention for defrauding disability trust

The former asset manager of a tax-payer funded disability trust has been sentenced to eight months of home detention and ordered to pay reparations of $164,929 for charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Saul Brendon Roberts was sentenced today in the Auckland High Court. He had pleaded guilty earlier to all five charges he faced under section four of the Secret Commissions Act in relation to his work at Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust and the charitable trust Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority.

Mr Roberts was the former asset manager of Te Roopu and former trustee and employee of Te Kawerau.

While he was employed by Te Roopu from 2012 to 2014, Mr Roberts received about $160,000 in kickbacks from various suppliers to the disability trust, including auto repairs workshops owned by his co-defendant, Atish Narayan. At no stage did Mr Roberts tell anyone at the trust that the suppliers were paying him cash to obtain the trust’s business.

In total, suppliers to Te Roopu paid kickbacks to Mr Roberts to secure about $1.5 million of the trust’s business. The trust is a public health care provider for people with intellectual disabilities, and has received funding from the Ministry of Health and other government agencies.

Mr Roberts had also received about $45,000 in kickbacks in 2009 for withdrawing public submissions he lodged on behalf of Te Kawerau, which was set up to settle treaty claims, in opposition to a proposed change to a district plan. The company that made the payment was unaware Mr Roberts was acting without the knowledge and consent of his employer.

Saul Robert’s co-defendant, Atish Narayan, pleaded guilty to two charges under section three of the Secret Commissions Act, and one Crimes Act charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ in August 2017. Mr Narayan owned two auto repair businesses which provided services to Te Roopu. Mr Narayan made undisclosed payments to Mr Roberts, in return for Mr Roberts arranging for vehicles owned by Te Roopu to be serviced or repaired at his businesses.

Mr Narayan was sentenced to six months’ home detention and ordered to pay $14,000 in reparation in October 2017.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “Mr Roberts illegally exploited his employment positions for personal financial gain. This type of corruption undermines these kinds of trusts which is a matter of public concern. The role of the SFO is to prosecute such matters on behalf of New Zealanders in order to keep organisations free from fraud and corruption.”

ENDS

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